No sooner had John Bolton, acting on behalf of the Bush Junta, demanded that the United Nations delete the phrase, “respect for nature,” from the core values section of a major reform document the U.N. is drafting, than Nature responded by whupping the United States upside the head bigtime, bigtime, bigtime.
You know what I’m talking about. Hurricane Katrina. The biggest hurricane ever to come ashore—ever?–well, OK—the biggest in recorded history, the most lethal of the four category five hurricanes on record. Katrina let the United States know, in no uncertain terms, that this country is vulnerable—woundable—in ways that military preparedness and heightened security measures cannot prevent.
Certainly, there are plenty of things that could have been done to ameliorate the situation. There were plenty of railroad cars and busses available to evacuate those without their own transportation (and ironically, New Orleans’ excellent public transportation system has made it easier for people to live there and not own an automobile). Ways could have been found to assure these people that their homes and belongings would be safe from looting in their absence. And surely we have all heard by now about how the Bush Junta severely cut funding for maintaining New Orleans’ levee system (which was not even built to withstand a category 5 storm to begin with), and what in the world are the Louisiana National Guard’s HIGH WATER vehicles doing in Iraq?
You know, though, that even if everything had been done right, Katrina wasn’t the whole show, she was just an opening number. It’s still only the middle of this hurricane season, and we’ve had thirteen named storms so far—the overall average is four or five. Katrina didn’t go right over the top of New Orleans, but the next storm might—or it might hit Houston, or Mobile, or Tampa—or Miami, Norfolk, WASHINGTON, Philadelphia or New York. Not only the frequency but the intensity of hurricanes is increasing—how long will it be until we have to create a “category six” and then maybe a “category seven”? And not only is the ocean getting warmer, it’s rising….
Dennis Hastert is not my kinda guy, but I think he was right to question the wisdom of rebuilding New Orleans. The city is below sea level, below the level of the Mississippi, it’s now a toxic waste cleanup site, and the river has been trying to take the Achafalaya bypass for a hundred years already. Channelization of the river for human/economic purposes has destroyed much of the network of barrier islands and marshland that used to buffer the city from storms. Maybe it’s time to let the river move, relocate New Orleans upriver to Baton Rouge, and start all over again. Maybe we can do it right this time, though I’m sure it will be done wrong if Messers. Hastert and Bush are in charge. Unfortunately they are in charge, and it looks like we may be getting a Halliburton-dominated, sanitized simulacrum of New Orleans in place of the real thing. Look for lots of eminent domain to be exercised and thousands of poor people to lose everything they had, most especially their communities.
Meanwhile, offers of aid are pouring in from around the world. We’re taking up Germany and France on their offers of fuel, but ignoring Venezuela’s offer of fuel and medical help, and of course ignoring Cuba’s offer of medical help. In case you didn’t know, Cuba has made medical aid one of its chief exports. Cuban medical personnel provide primary health care in Venezuela in exchange for petroleum for Cuba, and whenever there is a disaster in the world, Cuban doctors and nurses are there to help out.
And, by the way, Ivan, a category 5 hurricane, went over Cuba last year, bringing 160 mile-an-hour winds and a 20-foot storm surge, slightly stronger than Katrina. The Cubans evacuated a million and a half people—in a country where private cars are the exception, not the rule—and nobody died. People were allowed to take pets and prize possessions with them, and there was no looting. Ah, these backwards, third-world, communist countries. They’ve got a thing or two to learn from us, don’t they?
So now the spinning and the finger-pointing have begun, along with aid to the victims of this human-assisted natural disaster. There have been demands that various federal officials be fired for malfeasance and incompetence, but we have a government that really appreciates malfeasance and incompetence, so don’t expect any action there—and even if they did get rid of someone, maybe for not being venal enough, the Bush Junta would find an even more obnoxious replacement for them—look at trading Ashcroft for Gonzalez, look at the Supreme Court—Bush nominates good Nazi John Roberts as an associate justice, ignites a storm of well-justified criticism, and responds by—nominating Roberts for CHIEF justice. THAT’S justice? Since when do criminals get to select their judges? What really makes me gag is that a lot of Democrats seem to be willing to go along with giving us a Supreme Court that’s way out in right field.
The Bush junta is probably feeling a bit relieved by the news shift blown in by Hurricane Katrina. Iraq is out of the headlines, Cindy Sheehan is out of the headlines, and the Justice Department’s decision not to challenge Georgia’s new voter registration rules, which some are calling the reintroduction of Jim Crow, didn’t even make it into the headlines. The Republifascists get to try and look like good guys, if they can keep George from sticking his foot in his mouth babbling about rebuilding Trent Lott’s house, and if the skinny on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Kafkaesque rules doesn’t get out too far—they will only mail you the forms you need to your home address, but what if you’ve been evacuated due to a—duh, emergency, and can’t go home because the government won’t let you?
And of course all these wonderful billions of dollars they’re so magnanamously voting to spend are going to be borrowed from the Chinese. At least the Junta had the sense not to try and repeal the estate tax at the same time. Maybe the estate tax repeal is now off the table for good. Maybe. Just maybe. And maybe this whomp upside America’s head will keep the government too occupied to jump off on Iran like they were working up to. Maybe. Just maybe. Stay tuned.